Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Dire State of Podcast Clients and One Recommendation

Twelve percent of Internet users have downloaded a podcast, according to a Pew survey from November 2006. As more and more public media are using podcasts to make audio and video available over the Internet, the need for a decent podcast client (a.k.a. "podcatcher") increases. I have been carefully monitoring this market for at least a year - and I must admit that it has been a frustrating time. But, I think I finally found an application that has what it takes.

I have been looking for a native Windows application to fit my needs, with features like:
  • Automatic downloading of audio and video files to a specified folder.
  • Light on system resources and not interfering with other processes.
  • Free.
  • Stable.
  • Configurable.
  • Intuitive GUI.
To my great surprise there haven't been any decent choices out there for the longest time now. I have been trying all of the products out there only to uninstall them again shortly afterwards. To get a glimpse of which clients are popular, let's take a look at the big content providers' suggestions.

CNN recommends:Their recommendations shouldn't be taken too seriously though, considering that they misspelled jPodder's product name.

BBC recommends:
Swedish public television SVT gives the following recommendations for video podcasts:
Finally, Swedish public radio points to
I have been trying all of these applications and let me save you the effort if you haven't been going down the same path already: you will get what you're paying for - they are all free and they all suck! Below is my short rundown of the more popular ones.

iTunes' performance is making the application a nightmare and it is installing a couple of services which increases Windows' boot-time significantly. The podcasting features of iTunes are very basic and you don't have much control (which is one of iPod/iTunes' selling points and can be a good thing). It also keeps all downloaded files inside iTunes and makes it impossible to access the content from an external audio/video player.

Juice and Doppler suffer from the same problems. They are very unstable and often download the same episodes over and over again. Their user interfaces are also very unintuitive.

I would have loved to love Fireant, which sports a very nice GUI, but unfortunately it seems to be a dead project and the current release candidate is too unstable to be useful.

For a long time I was hoping that IE7's RSS support would include some advanced podcast features but that didn't happen.

Besides these clients, I have been uninstalling everything available on http://www.podcastingnews.com/topics/Podcast_Software.html, which is the definite list of available podcatchers.

One of these was Ziepod, a relatively unknown alternative, which is not recommended by any of the larger content providers. I originally tried out this application a little over 6 months ago and while I liked the GUI it was too unstable. I waited and waited for an update with bug fixes but nothing came. So what else is new, I though, another vaporware podcatcher which will never get to v1.0.

Well, I was wrong! I checked in on Ziepod's web site a few days ago and the product is back in development and v1.0 is now imminent. And what is even better, they have fixed all the stability issues while keeping the client lean and mean. So far, this product beats its competition by a fair margin. And did I mention that it's free?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jonas, I too am very frustrated with having to find another podcasting client. Thank you for saveing me a lot of time installing & uninstalling various programs.

    Itunes recently stopped working on my laptop for some reason and re-installing still did not fix it, so I was happy to say goodbye to the ever annoying itunes for good (I use an mp3 player not an ipod). Now I have the challenge of finding a decent replacement that can track what episodes i have already downloded. I will give Ziepod a try!

    thanks again, you saved me a lot of time...

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